How Long Before Someone Discovers You Have Died?

I'm watching a very interesting movie, Dreams of a Life, about the life and death of a fairly ordinary but attractive mixed-race 38 year old English woman named Joyce Carol Vincent who was found in her apartment after being dead for three years. 

The mystery is how it took so long to discover her body, which by that time was just a skeleton on a couch. By all accounts a healthy young woman, she apparently died in the midst of wrapping Christmas gifts. Her television had been running the entire time. Did she die of a drug overdose or alcohol intoxication? Probably not. She was not known to be a druggie or drinker. Some suspect murder but with the state of her body it is likely impossible to determine the cause of death. There was no evidence of physical violence. 

What about the people she was wrapping presents for? Nobody wondered why she didn't show up for a Christmas party or dinner? 

What about three years of unpaid rent? Apparently it took three years for the authorities to act on an eviction. Obviously, she wasn't paying utility bills the entire time, either.  

Neighbors did notice a foul odor, but apparently no one thought to call the police for what we in the U.S. would call a "welfare check." This is where the police knock on the door to determine if someone is okay or may be in need of assistance or intervention...or may be dead.

Suppose the unthinkable happened and you died alone. You just kicked off by a sudden heart attack. How long would it take for people to be concerned enough by your absence to act?

In my own case, I live alone and tend to entertain myself for long periods of time. I go for many days without being in touch with a friend or relative, but I suspect within two  weeks or so someone would start asking others whether they'd heard from me and three weeks before someone took action. 

If you, too, live alone, what's your estimate?

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I am more concerned about taking long walks on our property, into some place not normally visited and fail to return. I normally take a cell phone with me, and our dogs. It would not be a bad place to die. Mother and the remains of other family and friends would keep me company amide the layers of mulch. I expect our puppies would try to get help, they have been loved well... 

At the moment it would be known within a very short time. I fail to show up at work a whole day without cause, the office will be calling and they have one of my friend's contacts they would probably call him to find out if am still kicking should my cell go unanswered!

I don't live alone but I do sometimes go off into the mountains by myself.  I had a moment on Cannon Mountain where I knew if I slipped I would fall right off the mountain and nobody would find me until later in the spring probably.  I would be missed later that day when I failed to come home.

Well I am a mother of four young children and I cannot get 3 minutes alone to have a pee by myself. Usually I get as far as getting my knickers down before some little soul is wandering in, as for getting as far as using the bidet in peace........................... 

I know what you mean, living alone does have that issue.  When I lived alone, it occurred to me as I stumbled down the stairs one morning, that I could actually have a fall and could be lying at the foot of the stairs for some time before I was likely to get any external help.

I think the concern is heightened for injury, especially one that would impair access to a telephone, like a stroke maybe.  Once you are dead, the matter just becomes one of niceties and less relevant, timing.  If you are injured, however, timing becomes a much more critical element.  I made a point of being alert when coming down the stairs after that, and I alerted my neighbours and asked them to check on me if they didn't see my cat out frolicking every day.  I also gave them spare keys. 

It provided a degree of comfort, but in reality it is a matter of forethought as to what you put in place for such an event, measured against how likely it is to occur.

After all, you could probably live in an active family group and still die in the bath, drowning because you suffered a stroke and were unable to call out or move...

If a young woman with friends and relatives enough that she was wrapping Christmas gifts could go off the grid and it not be noticed until the authorities went to evict her 3 years later, that is just astonishing. I wonder if the fact that she had an abusive boyfriend was a contributing factor?

Yeah.. she could have cut them off.. her family could have hated the boyfriend and couldn't stand to see her with him.

It's really sad

I worked with a guy who had a downstairs tenent... they started to smell something really bad. Went down stairs and found a guy had been dead on his bed for 2 weeks... clothed... he was by a heater so it was pretty nasty apparently. But if they didn't live upstairs to smell it who knows how long he could have went for.

Unseen, is it a documentary?

I'm sorry I didn't say so before. It's Dreams of a Life and it's a documentary streamable on Netflix (for those living in a country where you can get Netflix).

RE: "I suspect within two  weeks or so someone would start asking others whether they'd heard from me" - actually, last Summer, you DID disappear for a week or two, and I asked around, but no one had a clue - then I was accused of actually missing you, so I dropped it like a hot spud. (shudders)

In my own case, I'm thinking a week or two, or the first time my daughter needed a free baby-sitter. Possibly earlier, if neighbors noticed vultures circling.

Funny you should mention that, a couple of summers ago, I was working in the yard with a wheelbarrow, it was hot and I was tired, so just for a bit, I flopped into the wheelbarrow, arms and legs askew, my head lolled over the edge, the complete picture of relaxation. I opened my eyes to see two vultures circling overhead, impatient to dine, and decided I wasn't ready to join them for lunch.

I've thought a lot about this subject, but maybe in a way that you aren't thinking about it.

I believe that when I die, newspapers nationwide should proclaim my death.  Why?  Because of the good that I've been doing for humanity.

In other words, if you die and your community doesn't notice, you have failed as a humanist.  You have failed as an conscientious Atheist.

Yes, I know, some of us leave more of a mark than others.  As Atheists, it's up to us to improve humankind.  It's up to me and you.  If your neighbors wouldn't care less if you were dead, you have a problem.

My goal as an Atheist and a secular humanist is to live my life so that when I die, the leaders of my community will have to meet and ask themselves, "Now what?  What are we going to do without him?"

If you believe that fullness of goodness ends with humanity, as I do, you are responsible to live a similar life.

I'm an Atheist, just like you.

If I'm dead why would I care?


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